Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Exercising Outdoors


It is that time of the year when temperatures fall and people who exercise are having to make adjustments with rain, snow, wind, or just overcast days. We all know that if you skip one day, it becomes easier to skip the next, and the one after that.  It's easy to decide not to go outside when its too wet, cold, or snowy.If you are willing to continue your excise regime outdoors there are some things you can do to stay warmer, remain in good health and be successful. 

First thing is to dress dry and warm.  If you get wet, the dampness will conduct the heat away from your body and you'll end up chilled and feeling miserable. This could lead to hypothermia which is when the core of your body drops to below 95 degrees F and if its cold enough outside, you might even experience frostbite. Avoid wearing anything made of cotton because cotton soaks up both sweat and rain, consequently holding in moisture.  Instead, consider wearing only synthetic fabrics such as polyester, polypropylene, or nylon to stay drier and warmer. These fabrics will draw moisture away from your body about 50 percent faster than cotton.

Next, wear layers instead of just one or two pieces.  Begin with a thin base layer made of synthetic fabrics to pull moisture away from your body.  If it is cold, think about wearing a middle layer made out of polar fleece, and top off with some sort of outer layer or shell to protect you from the elements. The outer layer could be a windbreaker, a vest, or a heavy weight jacket depending on the weather. In addition, choose bright colors to increase your visibility to passing vehicles. In fact, it is recommended adding reflective gear, tape, or blinking lights to make it easier for others to see you.

When temperatures are down, it is important to protect your extremities from the cold by wearing gloves, mittens, a hat or headband. These should be made out of wool or synthetic materials and these items are small enough to tuck in a pocket if they are not needed. Should you find your toes becoming chilly, think about using shoe covers because running shoes are designed to let heat escape and shoe covers will help keep the heat in. If not, look to purchase running shoes designed for winter use. 

In addition, make sure you take care of your skin by drinking lots of water and wearing a good moisturizer because winter weather is dry. Think about using something like Vaseline under your nose, on your ears and the tip of your nose for additional protection or consider using a running mask or scarf.  When I have to be outdoors, I wrap my face with a scarf to make sure the incoming air is warm so it doesn't freeze my nose, mouth, or lungs.

One other thing in regard to your skin, make sure you use a broad spectrum sunscreen.  Yes, it is winter but the snow covered ground tends to reflect sunlight so you are exposed to it twice.  If you are up in the mountains, the air is thinner and you are more exposed to UV rays.  Don't think that if its cloudy, you'll be fine because they come through and you are still exposed to them.

When you are outside, stay to paths that have been plowed or salted so you are not exposed to ice while running. If you can't avoid areas that have snow or ice, think about using cleats or spikes.  The thing is that spikes are not good to use on pavement and may make it more difficult for you to balance. 

Now that we've covered dress, don't forget to warm those muscles up before hitting the trails. Think about performing dynamic warmups to increase blood flow and raise your muscle temperature. If you do not do a good warm-up you could be at an increased risk for sprains and strains. Don't forget to breath when you are exercising outdoors. In colder weather, the vessels of your airways tend to shrink so if you cover your nose and mouth when outside, you keep moisture in your body as you breath out. 

If you start warming up, do not be afraid to remove layers of clothing. Do not wait until you are feeling super warm to remove layers, rather remove the clothing when you start feeling a bit warmer.  Tie the layers around your waist where they are easy to retrieve should your body temperature drop. In addition, consume liquids while outdoors because it is too easy to become dehydrated because you don't feel thirsty.

One other thing, be aware of the wind because of the wind chill factor which makes the temperature lower than it actually is and it is possible for you to end up with hypothermia.  If you are doing laps, start by running into the wind so when you are sweaty, you'll have the wind at your back.  Finally, as soon as you are done, cool down with more dynamic moves and then immediately get out of your workout clothing so you don't get chilled.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear. Have a great day.

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